How to enrich your legal advice with good governance
Promoted by Governance Institute of Australia.
Peter Burge FGIA— Governance Institute member and graduate, QLD Dux-award winner, and corporate lawyer — unpacks his legal and governance career journey.
1. Tell us a bit about your professional background
After a degree and two years’ articles of clerkship, I was admitted as a solicitor in Queensland. My focus has always been on corporate and commercial work. After a stint practising law and then teaching commercial law at university, I headed overseas for the ‘obligatory’ working holiday in London. That morphed into practising law in Singapore, Hong Kong, Bahrain and finally Abu Dhabi. My family returned to Australia (Brisbane) in 2012. Throughout my career, I have been in private practice as a corporate partner in an international law firm — as well as having various roles as General Counsel in telecoms, financial services and most recently resources companies. I was also a director of an industry regulator.
2. How did Governance Institute’s postgraduate education support you in your career journey?
The course is more than manageable and was certainly worth the effort. You get out of it, what you put in.
Sometimes ‘life’ just got in the way, and I had limited study time. It was clear from the material what I absolutely needed to do to progress, so it was easy to prioritise. I preferred the face-to-face tutorials, but I know others who preferred online subjects. I found the corporate financial management subject very engaging, and I looked forward to our Saturday meet-ups.
The Hayne Royal Commission has got more people talking about governance and risk. And recognition of the graduate diploma amongst employers is growing — particularly for the academic rigour and real word application. You can see on LinkedIn how many company secretaries and governance professionals at large publicly listed corporations are members of the Institute.
3. The world of governance is changing. Do you feel prepared for your future career?
The course has given me a far more holistic view of governance and risk management. I now find myself in meetings where executives start talking enthusiastically about a governance or risk concept (covered in-depth in my course) as if it were ‘new’.
That is not to say that there isn’t anything left to learn — you should never stop learning. The graduate diploma gave me an in-depth and broad overview of the current thinking on governance, and has enabled me to follow developments. The interplay between formal concepts of risk (and particularly downside risk) and governance has enriched my practice and the holistic view of governance and risk management.
4. What learnings can you pass on to young lawyers today?
Concentrate on getting the basics right — become as good a technical lawyer as you can be. The best lawyers are those that learn that legal risks are just one element of the risk matrix that a commercial decision-maker needs to take into account in making a decision on a particular point. There will be occasions when clients have been fully informed of the legal risk but decide that the upside risk outweighs the downside risk. As long as you have done your job —making sure that the client is fully informed of the legal risk — it may be perfectly rational for the client to take that risk (mitigated by you as much as possible). To me, that is what lawyers should strive to be — advisers who know their own business as well as their clients.